Food waste collaboration helps secure Bristol’s Gold Sustainable Food City Award

16 June 2021

Bristol has been awarded a Gold Sustainable Food City Award by the UK partnership programme, Sustainable Food Places, recognising the positive work undertaken across the city’s food system. Bristol is only the second city in the UK to achieve the status, after Brighton and Hove was awarded it in 2020.

Resource Futures was privileged to contribute to achieving this Award, which resulted from the collaborative city-wide initiative called ‘Bristol Going for Gold’, led by coordinating partners Bristol Food Network, Bristol City Council, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and Resource Futures. Bristol’s winning application focused on themes of food waste reduction, community action and growing Bristol’s good food movement.

A team from Resource Futures led one of the two ‘areas of excellence’ required for the submission, focusing on food waste. Despite food waste being a challenging issue to tackle at a strategic level, it was chosen as an area of exceptional achievement due to Bristol’s history of breaking new ground in food waste reduction.

In 2006, Bristol became the first UK Core City to introduce separate household food waste recycling collections. Since then, Bristol has continued to pioneer innovation in food waste reduction. Bristol’s approach to addressing food waste reduction rests on the food waste hierarchy principles, underpinned by Bristol City Council’s ‘Towards a zero waste Bristol’ strategy (2016). Collective work towards food waste excellence has focused on how the city can effectively embed and implement these principles.

Bristol has a strong tradition of partnership building to tackle difficult problems in the sustainability sector and stakeholder collaboration has been essential to achieving food waste reduction success.

“It’s been a privilege to work collaboratively with colleagues across Bristol looking at ways to reduce food waste across the city. Whilst the work is far from over it’s great to celebrate this milestone as we look forward to more innovative ways to increase engagement going forwards.”

Sarah Hargreaves, Senior Consultant at Resource Futures

Critically, a Food Waste Action Group (FWAG) was established in 2018, uniting Bristol City Council, Bristol Food Network, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol Waste, FareShare South West, GENeco, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, University of Bristol and University of the West of England. FWAG members represent and lead action in their sectors, ensure a focus on the food waste hierarchy, and meet quarterly to share best practice.

The ‘Bristol Going for Gold’ initiative excelled in evidencing success through critical data points. As well as encouraging households, businesses and schools to collectively take positive food waste action, FWAG gathered accurate comprehensive data on current food waste. Food waste achievements – drawing on household, commercial and redistribution data points – include:

  • 38% increase in household food diverted for recycling from 2016-20
  • 10% increase in avoidable food recycled by Bristol households*
  • 3% less avoidable food wasted by Bristolians*
  • Bristol food recycling tonnages increased 25% compared to the national 23% increase**

*compared to the UK national average
**between financial years 2016-17 and 2019-20

Coordinated by Resource Futures, FWAG members undertook work to move both food and non-food businesses up the food waste hierarchy. Resource Futures supported four organisations in reducing food and packaging waste before the Covid-19 pandemic forced many food businesses to close. To engage non-food businesses, Resource Futures calculated a hypothetical volume of unavoidable food waste produced by Bristol’s businesses to help them understand how they contribute to the city’s food waste.

The initiative also impressed through its ability to pivot to the changing needs of the city in light of the pandemic. When engagement with non-food businesses became more challenging as homeworking increased during the pandemic, Resource Futures facilitated a workshop for businesses and used the ISM behaviour change tool to unearth needs, opportunities and barriers to wider food waste engagement.

To increase collaboration between food redistribution organisations, FWAG set up a Food Redistribution Group. Building on collaborative working practices, the group plans to provide a hub for redistribution data in the city. It also hopes to provide businesses with simple resources to better understand which redistribution organisations to approach with offers, ensuring Bristol food stays in Bristol.

Following the Award, it is hoped that the FWAG members will continue to work together to embed food waste best practice across all sectors in Bristol, drawing on learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic to continue developing and increasing city-wide engagement.

Download and read the inspiring document that earned Bristol a Gold Sustainable Food City Award.